Riverbend Roadhouse looking to add housing

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— Owners of the Riverbend Roadhouse said they have always intended to provide affordable housing on the 4.8 acres that surrounds the restaurant on U.S. Highway 40.

It has just taken them a second try to find a plan the county was willing to accept.

With county approval, Reed and Paula Stephenson can move forward with their plans to build five duplex cabins expand their restaurant expansion and remodel the lodging rooms on the second floor of the restaurant.

The site already has one cabin, seven lodging units above the restaurant and a manager's apartment. Under the new plan, there would be 17 units totaling 8,700 square feet.

The Stephensons have taken the piece of land, which sits a half mile west of Steamboat II and Heritage Park and borders the Steamboat Golf Club, through two different planning processes. This spring they came before the county with a plan for 26 new cabins. But county commissioners denied the proposal citing it was too dense for the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.

The Stephensons came back this summer with a proposal for fewer cabins and to remodel the second floor of the restaurant, reducing the number of lodging units from seven to five. The county commissioners approved the plan on Tuesday.

The 500-square foot cabins would provide 10 affordable housing units with a single bedroom, loft, bathroom, kitchen and walk in closet. The cabins would be on the back half of the 4.8-acre property and placed around two separate cul de sacs. To match the existing structures, the cabins would be log or have log siding.

Paula Stephenson said the estimated rent runs about $650 a month and said it would be a perfect fit for young professionals who have lived in Steamboat for one to three years.

"This is what we could afford to do and what we saw the community needed," she said. "This is what fills up properties, not the high-end (homes). I think the fact that we decided to make (Steamboat) our home, makes us want to do something the community wants."

The Stephensons also plan to revamp the second floor of the restaurant. The upstairs lodging rooms, which include baths, will be expanded and a second exit will be built.

Paula Stephenson said that these rooms are targeted for three-to-six month renters and should cost between $325 and $400 a month.

In the next five years, the Stephensons have hopes of expanding the restaurant. The 400- square-foot garage will be remodeled and used to expand the bar. Paula Stephenson said because of the existing restaurant's low ceilings and poor ventilation, the bar and eating area have been nonsmoking. The expansion would allow a designated smoking area and a place for pool tables, something that would bring in more revenue to the bar.

Paula Stephenson also said with the building plans, they could start making landscaping improvements to the property like building a shade structure and more vegetation.

"We really want to start making this look nice as the entrance into Steamboat," she said.

The Riverbend Inn was built in the mid 1950s and was originally run as a lodge with a restaurant on the first floor and three detached rental cabins on the property.

In the early 1970s, Larry and Marigene Matheis bought the property and continued to operate the restaurant. They changed the second floor lodging and cabin units from nightly to long-term rentals. They also built another cabin.

In 2001 the Stephensons took over the property and finalized the sale in January 2002. By then three of the four cabins had deteriorated beyond use. In the proposal to the county, the Stephensons said they would tear down two of the cabins and one has burned down. A 700-square-foot cabin will remain along with the 1,250 square foot owners/manager apartment that is attached to the restaurant.

The Stephensons would like to start construction on the cabins by this spring.

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